Updated on 17 September 2012
A safe, effective, and affordable malaria vaccine would close the gap left by other interventions. Progress toward developing malaria vaccines has accelerated in recent years. Increased funding and awareness and advances in science and in vaccine technologies have reinvigorated a field that had been constrained by an absence of a traditional market, few developers, and the technical complexity of developing any vaccine against a parasite. Even with this progress, the vaccine development field needs new ideas, more funding, and innovative partnerships.
Moving in that direction, two US-based non profit organizations - PATH's Malaria Vaccine Initiative (MVI), the Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) have partnered with Indian company Gennova Biopharmaceuticals to set up a vaccine manufacturing facility in Pune as RTS,S, an experimental malaria vaccine, showing early promise in large-scale phase 3 testing that reinvigorated the scientific community in its quest to control malaria.
Sharing his thoughts at the Malaria Forum, which was convened to discuss strides in malaria control and address challenges that are impacting the long-term goal of malaria eradication last year at Seatle Mr Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said this discovery a "huge milestone" in the fight against malaria, as RTSS is the first vaccine against a parasitic disease. "First, this is proof that it is possible to create a vaccine that is effective against malaria," explained Mr Gates."Second, if further results show that the effectiveness of RTS,S does not wane over time it has the potential to protect millions of children and save thousands of lives."
Work is already underway to develop the next generation of vaccines that will provide greater and longer lasting protection and will be even more effective in stopping malaria transmission. "If we think big, bring more partners into the fold, and take smart risks, we will invent entirely new tools -powerful ways of fighting malaria that don't exist now," explained Mr. Gates. "This is the kind of innovation that will enable us to plan for the eventual eradication of malaria."
However, current funding is not enough to get a malaria vaccine across the finish line. It costs about half a billion dollars to move a vaccine from the laboratory to a safe and effective product. To achieve this goal, the international community that is embracing the long-term goal of eradicating malaria needs more donors to provide support, more scientists and vaccine developers to invest their political and intellectual capital, and national, regional, and international policymakers to lay the groundwork for malaria vaccine delivery and use.